I hope most people are aware of the phrase ‘What happened to you? You used to be cool. You’ve changed.’ I heard a variation of this on an episode of The Simpsons once and it, along with other ideas has been stuck in my head since the early hours of last night through a night of perturbed sleep and strange dreams.
It came about because of a conversation with my girlfriend about something that was bothering me. Something happened, I tried to resolve it and got no response. I said to my girlfriend that I was bummed out by this and she asked me why? If I had done nothing wrong, I had tried to make it better and still didn’t get a resolution, then why was I bothered about it all and why didn’t I just say screw it and let it go?
One of the many things I love about her is her ability to ask me a question that stumps me beyond any chance of responding with something that is not true. She knows me well enough to know that I know that giving a bullshit answer to something makes me feel worse than possible internal discomfort of working out what I was really feeling. It has taken me until now to come up with a vague answer to that question.
As I lay rising and falling in and out of sleep, something popped into my head that made me think. It was a test I did when I used to work as a manager to determine what sort of personality I had as a manager. It was the Briggs-Meyer test, or a variation of it. The results were that I was a risk averse introvert. This struck me at the time as really odd as I in no way considered myself introverted or risk averse.
What I went on to realise that I still considered myself as the same person I was when I was 21 and flew out to Canada with with one way tickets to do the Canadian Fringe Theatre circuit with three like minded friends after forming a brand new theatre company with no track record. Having just typed that, I still can’t decide if it was totally ballsy confidence or utter naievity/stupidity. It is likely a mix of the two.
At 21 I was certainly an extroverted risk taker. I can now look back and see that a large portion of that was based on pain and anger and depression. I can also see that it was part of me that was not afraid to give things a go and see what happens in the most positive sense.
When I did the test at 32, I could not see how I had gone from one polar extreme to the other. Then I realised that being an extroverted risk taker was probably not the best policy to adopt when managing a house for people with physical and learning disabilities. A large part of my job was doing risk assessments so risk was minimised wherever possible. I had in essence become a different person through doing a job, which is a frankly scary concept.
I also wondered about the introvert part. I haven’t considered myself unable to speak up or shy away from situations, but thinking about it today, I realise that I have become like that. I feel myself edging away from situations where there is any sort of conflict and in all honesty, edging away from things that are totally positive for me. I don’t want conflict of any sort, even if it means causing myself pain to prevent it happening. Even when I am right about something I will put the other side’s case forward to prevent discord. Which feels a particularly crummy way to treat myself.
Then I had a thought whilst in the shower. And stop that right now! It was not that sort of thought. You saucy so and sos. I wondered what if I am still sub-consciously acting in a way that the manager version of me did, but in my real life right now? Am I still averse to risk? Am I acting more introverted than I than I actually am? Why am I not saying ‘screw it’ and letting things go?
That is the trouble with the sub-conscious. It can be doing things we are not consciously aware of doing until someone aims a well put question to you and lets fire. In the haze of gun smoke afterwards, I am left with the answer, maybe it is. Maybe I am just letting old habits and ways of being control me in ways that are not applicable to me now. Maybe I consider myself risk averse when I am not. I did quit my job to chase my dream of being a writer and I have started a new radio show with no experience. I also sometimes drink milk that is slightly past it’s best before date. Risks aplenty I feel.
I thought it would be interesting to take the test again. So that is what I did before starting this post. I am ‘Introvert intuitive feeling perceived’. Apparently this is me. For the mathematically inclined, here are some sexy numbers and percentages for you. Introvert(11%) iNtuitive(50%) Feeling(38%) Perceiving(11%). Ooh, numbers.
My conclusion is this. Yes, I am more introverted yet I prefer that to being the ‘look at me’ show off I was when I was younger. I do concede that I should be less afraid to say what I really think. I believe I trust my instincts. In the initial stage of an idea anyway. It is only when self-doubt creeps in that I question my gut feels. Feelings? Yes, I have those and no bad thing as far as I am concerned. Perceiving. I can see where others are coming from and that sometimes makes life easier.
Now, I know this is not a hard and fast guide. It does make me think that I can have more control over what I do or how I act rather than acting like a badly programmed auto-pilot. Will I take more risks? Yes. Will I take the risk of jumping off a roof to see if I can fly? Certainly not. It is a very dumb thing to do. Just start from the ground and see if you can fly from there.
Besides, what is wrong with changing? I wonder if people who say ‘You have changed’ are unable to change themselves? Change is surely one of the constants of life? If we were all the same person from the moment we were born to the day we die, what progress would we have made as a species?
Lastly, I am choosing to say ‘screw it’ and I am going to let it go.
Take care buddies,